Los Angeles Mandates Use of Condoms for Sex Films
The New York Times
By JENNIFER MEDINA
January 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES —
The Los Angeles City Council approved a new mandate Tuesday requiring all actors in pornographic films to wear condoms during any filming that takes place within city limits. The law is the first of its kind in the country, advocates said, and could have a significant impact on what some say is a $1 billion industry.
Los Angeles Vote to Decide on Condoms in Sex Films (December 29, 2011)
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has pressed for such legislation for years and last year secured nearly double the number of signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot in June, when the state is scheduled to hold its presidential primary.
But the ballot initiative would have cost the already strapped city roughly $4 million. Several council members suggested that voters were likely to approve the measure by a large margin anyway and that the Council should simply save the money by approving it. The Council did that on Tuesday, without debate, in a 9-to-1 vote.
“The issue itself is so common sense and intuitive, why put the city through the costs and ordeal when the outcome is really preordained?” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “This is a no-brainer of an issue. It’s not going to cost us very much to enforce — we won’t spend any more money enforcing this than we do any other law. And in this case, if you don’t follow the law, it will be on film.”
The new mandate will allow the Los Angeles Police Department to perform spot checks on any set once a film permit is issued. A group of officials from the Police Department, the state’s workplace safety agency and the city attorney’s office will make recommendations on how to implement the policy, which goes into effect in 90 days.
The law also imposes a fee on all pornographic film permits to cover the costs of enforcement.
The city attorney had opposed the legislation, saying it was unclear whether the city had the authority to create such a law because the state governs issues between employers and employees. But he dropped the opposition last week, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation agreed to pay up to $50,000 in legal costs if the city is sued over the matter.
The foundation is still pushing a ballot initiative that would create the same requirements for filming anywhere in Los Angeles County. In the past, county health officials have said that it would be too difficult to monitor the pornography industry through the Health Department and that the State Legislature should be the one to pass any laws regulating the industry. So far, advocates for the condom requirements have not been able to persuade a state legislator to sponsor such a bill.
“The most important thing about this is that this is the first political body to pass legislation requiring regulation,” said Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “When push comes to shove, people know this was the right thing to do.”
Current regulations by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health already require pornographic actors to use condoms. But the state agency can only respond to complaints, not perform its own inspections, and it has issued only a few fines.
Several filmmakers have said that requiring condom use is unnecessary and that the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is reduced by requiring actors to get regularly tested.
“Clearly this is about the government overreaching and intruding into consenting adults’ decisions,” said Diane Duke, the chief executive of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade group for the pornography business. “Our standards and protocols are extremely effective and are working. They are taking something they know nothing about and imposing their morality on our industry.”
Ms. Duke said that film executives did not know the Council was planning to vote on the matter until after it held an initial hearing last week, and that no producers had spoken with City Council officials. She said that the group would consider filing a lawsuit.
The only “no” vote came from Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents the San Fernando Valley, the heart of the industry.
“Strictly on a matter of what we should and shouldn’t be going after when we are nearly broke, this isn’t where we should be spending our resources,” Mr. Englander said. He added that he feared filmmakers would take their business elsewhere. “We don’t know how much this will cost us to enforce, how we will enforce it and whether it will cost us the loss of jobs.”
Mr. Weinstein said the argument that the pornographic film industry would move out of Los Angeles is a “big lie.”
“They cannot just pick up their stakes and move to another state,” he said. “They’d hardly be welcomed in West Virginia or Utah or Mississippi, or even a place like Nevada, where legal prostitution is highly regulated and condoms are required. And we will follow them wherever they go.”